The Polka Grammy Is No More

I was hoping for an Accordion Awareness Month filled with only positive stories; unfortunately, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences had other ideas. Yesterday the Academy announced the elimination of the polka category from the Grammy Awards, wiping out one of polka’s few remaining venues for national exposure. Carl Finch, leader and accordionist for two-time Grammy winner Brave Combo, was understandably disappointed:

“It’s devastating… Polka is so misunderstood, you know, the butt of jokes. Having a polka category was the most important step to legitimacy that we could ever hope to achieve. To have that taken away, it’s like it was all for nothing.”

According to the Academy, the polka category was removed “to ensure the awards process remains representative of the current musical landscape.” One official cited the declining number of entries (only 20 in 2006) as a deciding factor. That only five artists had won the award in its 24 years — including 18-time winner Jimmy Sturr — made the category appear even less competitive.

This is definitely tough news for the polka community, especially for those bands who enjoyed media attention at Grammy time. But ultimately, I don’t think there are any polka fans who love the music any less today than they did yesterday, and I doubt this will stop any of the hard-working polka bands who fill dance floors across the country from doing what they love most.


  1. sad day.

  2. I had no idea only 5 artists have won the Polka category in 24 years at the Grammys. No wonder it’s being eliminated. What that statistic suggests is that new players are not emerging, the system may even be favoring veteran players, the music has seen little or no attractive innovation and — for sure — the music is not appealing enough to many folks outside the polka community. Traditional polka music is quite pure, uncomplicated, and usually tied to ethnic roots, so where and how could it re-emerge on big stages such as the Grammys? Rock and roll evolves, and so does hip-hop, and jazz, and country, and musicals. Can polka music evolve? Should it evolve? Some types of “old” music get resurrected again and again…like swing music, dixieland, the entire classical repertoire, the big band era, early rock and roll, folk music, early country music, blue grass, etc. Why not polka music too? How can it re-emerge as young, sexy, nostaligic, attractive, and fun? Any ideas out there?

  3. It sure can evolve, I’ve heard plenty of awesome Polka music. But I don’t think it should have to. Fact is a lot of good things in the world have stereotypes tacked onto them. Polka music is equated with old tastes, wacky people, and “the establishment.” Which incidentally is all true, but what’s wrong with any of that?

  4. Great questions, Jack. Polka music may be due for its own revival and artists like Brave Combo, Polka Freak Out, Copper Box, LynnMarie, the Polkaholics, and others are already doing their part modernize and bring polka to younger audiences.

    I’m not sure the Grammy category was really helping; the fate of polka music will be determined in dance halls and festivals across the country, not in a meeting room at the Recording Academy.

  5. What’s this country coming to? This is American Roots Music. Preserve our precious Polka heritage!